Strawberry Lavender Jam || Hitchhiking to Heaven

Strawberry Lavender Jam

The day after I met Julia, we joined Kate and Tigress for a Can Jammers’ picnic at Thompson-Finch Farm in Ancramdale, New York. We were quite a strawberry-picking crew: me from California, Julia on her home turf, Kate up from Brooklyn, Tigress from the Berkshires.

It was a hot, humid morning, and we were all different shades of pink by the end of it. But between me and Julia, who did an admirable job of juggling a toddler along with her hat full of strawberries (I’d dare any circus performer to pull that off), we managed to pick fifteen pounds for her to take home. I picked for Julia — because what would I do with a flat of strawberries and no kitchen? — and she promised to send me some of whatever delicious thing she makes with them.

Here is lovely Kate with her haul of organic Jewel strawberries, which she gamely transported back to Brooklyn via train and subway.

After picking, we settled down like birds in the shade for a true feast, with homemade goodies we’d each brought along — from Tigress’s yummy hummus (isn’t it fun to say “yummy hummus”?) and Ayran (a Turkish salted yogurt drink), to Julia’s pickled beets and hard-boiled eggs from her chickens, to a buckwheat version of Kate’s astonishingly good Gluten-Free Bread That Doesn’t Suck, pictured below with soft cheese and three of my jams. (Strawberry Rhubarb Orange, Strawberry Balsamic Black Pepper, and Blenheim Apricot.)

Because I didn’t take away any strawberries from our picking fest, and because it’s still “erry” week for the Can Jam, I’m going to share one of my new strawberry jam recipes here. I made this before I left home for our trip to New York . . .

Strawberry Lavender Jam

This wonderful technique for preparing strawberries is the same as that used in the Strawberry Balsamic Black Pepper recipe mentioned above. I’ll always be grateful for learning this method, because it gives consistent, delicious results and lends itself to improvisation with all sorts of ingredients. Before you begin, be aware that this is a two-day process. You’ll prepare the strawberries and leave them in the fridge overnight, then make your jam on the second day.

For this strawberry-lavender combination, I was inspired by Canning with Kids’ version for the May Can Jam.

Here’s what you need:

2 1/2 pounds strawberries, hulled
1 pound sugar (about 2 1/4 cups)
24 Provence lavender stems
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or 4 tablespoons if you use less acidic Meyer lemons, like I do)

Day One

1. Hull the strawberries, then decide how big you want them to be. You can leave them whole if they’re small, cut them in half if they’re giants, or rough cut them if you’re feeling that way.

2. Put the strawberries in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Layer half of the lavender stems into the strawberries and add the sugar and lemon juice. Cover the bowl with parchment paper or a clean cloth and place it in the fridge overnight.

Day Two

1. Sterilize your jars and put 5 teaspoons on a plate in the freezer to test your jam for doneness later.

2. Pull the lavender stems out of the berry bowl and put the rest of the contents into your jam pot. Bring the mixture to a boil.

3. Use a strainer to remove the strawberries to a separate bowl and continue to boil just the liquid until it thickens. I take mine up to about 218F on my candy thermometer, but you can use your judgment here, too. As the liquid boils, use a shallow, stainless-steel spoon to skim any stiff, pale foam off the top.

4. After the liquid thickens, return the strawberries to the pot and add the other half of the lavender stems. (Are you wondering why you went to the trouble of removing the berries and adding them back again? You don’t have to do that, but if you take the extra step, your berries will retain both integrity and flavor.) Boil to the setting point, continuing to skim the stiff foam as you go. (Skimming is also worth the trouble. You’ll end up with a much cleaner, brighter jam.) This final cooking phase takes about 10 minutes for me.

To test your jam for doneness: Remove the mixture from the heat. Use one of your frozen spoons to scoop up a little bit of jam — not a whole spoonful. Return the spoon to the freezer and wait 3 minutes. Retrieve the spoon and hold it vertically. If the mixture runs very slowly or not at all, it’s done. Alternately, give the mixture a little push with your finger. If you see creases or wrinkles, it’s done.

5. Remove the lavender stems from the pot.

6. Ladle the hot jam into your sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath, using the correct amount of time for fruit jam at your elevation. For me, that’s 5 minutes. Yields 4 half-pint jars.

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  • Reply Gloria June 24, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Oh you lucky things. Your picnic sounds delightful.

  • Reply SarahBHood June 25, 2010 at 2:49 am

    Oh what fun, and the pictures are so delicious! That one of Kate could go straight onto a 1930s fruit box label!

  • Reply Denise | Chez Danisse June 25, 2010 at 2:58 am

    I'd like a Turkish salted yogurt drink–yum! I have a question about lavender. Are you at all familiar with different types and which types suit certain recipes? Also, is all (organic) lavender acceptable for culinary use? I recall trying to investigate this a little bit and not getting very far. Thoughts? Opinions? Thanks!

  • Reply Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven June 25, 2010 at 3:13 am

    Gloria and Sarah: Thank you both, and I hope we'll see you next year! Kate does look fetching, doesn't she?

    Denise: I know a few different types of lavender only from growing them. This is the first time I've cooked with lavender, and what I heard from someone who knows more than I do is "you have to use Provence." Lucky me, that's what I have most of in my garden. But really, it may have been jam-specific advice. I'm just not sure. My only truly personal tip is this: A little lavender is good, and a lot is not better. I tried this recipe with a heavier dose of lavender and it was like eating a bath product. So I look forward to learning more about this herb, too. Oh, and if I remember right, there's a touch of cumin in Tigress's Ayran!

  • Reply Denise | Chez Danisse June 25, 2010 at 3:22 am


  • Reply thenextarrow June 25, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    marvelous photos. that jam sounds delicious!

    xo Alison

  • Reply tigress June 26, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    the jam does sound delicious! and again, your photos are gorgeous!

    i am in love with lavender and i agree with you, more is not always better. i've never paired it with strawberries – how do the two tastes meld?

    from what i understand there are many different types of lavender, not all for culinary use. french & english i believe are best to eat. the two english varieties i have our hitcote and munstead – one is a deep purple and one is lighter.

    …and yes, the ayran does have a bit of ground cumin in it. :)

  • Reply Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven June 28, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Tigress: I think the strawberry and lavender are wonderful together. The lavender, if not overdone, adds a nice fragrance and gentle bite — and Tigresses should like that, right? :-)

  • Reply Lisa February 7, 2011 at 5:15 am

    Hi There. Have you ever used dried lavender for this jam?

  • Reply Lisa February 8, 2011 at 6:39 am

    Me again. The jam taste great, but with me its always hit or miss. My jams can boil right down to nothing and I never get a signal that its reached the setting point. Sometimes I think I don’t have the temperature high enough, then I end up burning it. Sometimes I think I don’t have enough pectin. I thought that this time and added more lemon juice, but still no setting. Ready to cry now. Any thoughts before I do?

  • Reply Shae February 8, 2011 at 7:41 am

    Oh, Dear, Lisa, just don’t give up! There will always be times when it doesn’t work out, but there are definitely things you can do to make it easier. You can see from the photo above that this jam has a fairly soft set, right? That’s because it’s such a low-sugar jam. So, ideally, it shouldn’t be syrup (not that strawberry-lavender syrup is all bad) but it won’t be a very firm, either.

    A couple of questions: (1) Are you using a good pot — one with a heavy bottom and quick, even heat distribution? (2) Are you using the best quality strawberries you can find? They should be ripe, but still firm — never too ripe, because the more ripe a fruit is, the less pectin it has.

    You need that high temperature; you just need to watch it. For me, with this particular jam (it’s different for others), one of the first signs that it is ready to be tested is when I stir it, the spoon leaves an open track on the bottom of the pan that isn’t immediately filled back in — in other words, the liquid has evaporated so much that it doesn’t quickly run back in to fill that empty trail left by the spoon. A couple of minutes after I see that, I take the jam off the heat and do my first test.

    Backing up to your lavender question: I have only used fresh lavender because I think it gives the best flavor. Also, with dried, I’d be concerned that bits would break off and be left in the jam. I would rather not have that because lavender can be a strong flavor to start with, and the left-behind bits will continue to intensify. The same is true for any herb. I infuse the jam but then pull the herbs out before canning.

    Finally, take care with the lemon juice. Beyond a certain point, adding more won’t help the set much, but you may over-acidify the jam and end up with a taste you don’t love as much.

    Most important, you hang in there! These things happen to all of us!

  • Reply Lisa February 14, 2011 at 2:17 am

    Hiya Shae,

    hope you don’t mind I do love chatting with you. Sometimes I do wish I were home in America. So many things seem more possible – like lavender.

    The strawberries are from my garden, beautifully ripe, but not enough underdone. And, they were last summers strawberries – frozen. I don’t think thats bad though. Cant let the magpies and my daughter have them all.

    I have to use dried lavender. Couldn’t source fresh ones out here in the boondocks of Ireland. This time I put them in a muslin tea bag, very delicate flavor came through thank goodness cause I too was worried. I’ll be growing lots of lavender this year.

    I did use too much lemon juice and I can feel the effect of that, not nice, but palatable. I’m anxious to try again. Shed enough tears, and have read load of books about preserving, so away I go.

    My pot is reasonably heavy bottomed – stainless steel. I think I just needed to hear that the temperature should be high. I suspected, but wasn’t at all confident enough to do it.

    Thanks again. Anything new on your horizon?

  • Reply Kelli April 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    So I have loads of lavender, none of it on the stem. So I was thinking of using my mortar and pestle to grind it very fine to add straight to the jam. Ideas on how much… I was thinking a teaspoon of whole flowers ground should suffice.

    • Reply Shae April 15, 2011 at 5:59 am

      Hi Kelli: I don’t like to leave strong herbs like lavender in my jam because they can continue to work and cause flavor changes over time. I prefer to infuse the jam and remove the herb. I’m especially sensitive to lavender, which in too strong a dose makes me feel like I’m eating soap! I’m sorry I don’t have a good recommendation for adding it dried, other than to say that I, personally, wouldn’t. If you go for it, I’d say you’ve got the right idea to use a light hand. :-)

  • Reply caroline May 1, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    I love the simplicity of this recipe. Your steps are so clear. Making this jam this week!!! Thank you :)

    • Reply Shae May 2, 2011 at 8:34 am

      Yahoo! (And thank you!) I love that strawberry jam season is upon us again. Enjoy.

  • Reply Renee May 16, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I’ve never made or attempted to make jam before, but after a recent trip to the Ellis Hotel in Atlanta, GA. where they served a wonderful Strawberry/Lavendar jam for breakfast, I just had to try my hand at making it. When you say, “process” the jam after filling the jars, what exactly is that? Do you mean a water bath or just to sit at room temperature? I’m so excited to try your recipe! Thanks~

    • Reply Shae May 16, 2011 at 11:26 am

      Thanks for catching my omission, Renee! All of my jam recipes are for hot water bath processing and I usually say so, but I forgot to specify that here. I’ve corrected it above. Enjoy!

  • Reply Rowena June 14, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    For this amount of fruit mixture, are you using a copper preserving pan or a smaller maslin pan?

  • Reply Shae June 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Rowena: That’s a great question. I have used both. In my 11-quart copper, I just have to watch it very carefully and stir frequently at the end to be sure it doesn’t burn, turning down the heat as necessary. It feels safer in an 8-quart pan.

  • Reply Dana Aubrey July 20, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Just found your blog. Love it. Will be trying this recipe next week. Thank you for posting it. We are at the end of our season here but I managed to flash freeze a bunch of strawberries a couple of weeks ago.

  • Reply Shae July 21, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Thanks, Dana! It’s so smart to freeze strawberries during their natural season. Before this summer, I’d never done it, but now I have about ten pounds put away and I’m so glad.

  • Reply What You Can Preserve in the Winter January 1, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    […] Does anyone in Hawaii want me to move in and do some preserving? Strawberries and Limes (BWC); Strawberries again (BWC); Get everything you can from those Strawberries! (O- shrub); Oranges (O- […]

  • Reply Cathy June 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Your recipe sounds wonderful. I’m in the day one process now and don’t see pectin listed as an ingredient. Just want to be sure it isn’t used. I’m new to preserving and so far the recipes have always called for pectin.
    Thanks for the recipe!

    • Reply Shae June 26, 2013 at 2:41 pm

      Hi Cathy: No pectin! I rarely use commercial pectin in jams because I don’t care for the texture. Keep in mind that jams made without added pectin have a softer, more natural set, so it will probably be different from the set of the jams you’ve made so far. You can get a pretty good idea of what it will be like from the photo of the finished jam, above. The main caution is not to overcook the mixture, which is what I always wanted to do when I first started making traditional jams without pectin — for some tips on the cooking phase you can scroll up and read the related comment just above. Enjoy!

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